Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ambition, Injection, Multiplication: Anecdotes from a Jaitpura School

Here's another report from Gandhi Fellow Kabir Arora on his experience in a village school in Jaitpura.
Life in the school was never boring. Every day there was a story to share back at home.
A story which can inspire for the next day. Sometimes the day in school was awesome,
many a times conflicting. All form a part of anecdotes. Stories…

When I was a child my aim in life was to become a cricketer.  I later on decided to be a musician. Ended up here. One day the class was very chaotic, no one was taking interest in mathematics. I was looking for an opportunity to strike a chord. I just gave that idea a try. I asked them about their ambitions in life.  

Hansu Ram wanted to become a police inspector, Kishore followed the same line; Naveen said his aim is to become a “goonda”. I asked the reason, answer was same: Police man and Goondas hit and kill people. I was shocked. For few minutes lost, was not even able to respond. Just ran away from the class. “What is our society offering? Violence! Where are we going?” These were the few questions which were going on in my mind. For most part of the day, I was confused. Constant self questioning and peer discussion lead to an answer--show them a different picture of livelihoods and professions. I shared some of the ideas in class, but left them with a blank picture. Actually needed more time. Opportunity is still lost for me but not for my colleagues.

I once asked Pawan about his ambition. He told me he wants to become a doctor. I was
amazed to hear the response. “At least someone wants to serve the society”. But why to be a doctor out of all? His answer--because doctors give injections.

Once I was distributing worksheets and sharpened pencils. Pawan got a very sharp pencil. Kiran was solving her worksheet in a camel-like position in front of him. Mischievous ideas are always going on in Pawan’s mind. He almost reached Kiran’s butt to give her an injection with his sharpened pencil. In second, I just dragged him. After seeing his idea in work, I got angry, but later on laughed a lot on the episode. The shadow of ambition in naughty tasks.
No answer
As mentioned Pawan is very mischievous. I see myself in him. Kids in 2nd standard complained to me about Pawan’s stealing habit. He used to take out pencils, eraser or sharpener from the bag of his classmates without their permission. If questioned about the articles, he claimed them as of his own. For a while I just ignored it.

One day I saw him stealing in front of my eyes. I love him, felt hurt to see his act. Unconsciously gave him a slap for which apologized later. My reaction was so abrupt. I should have thought before responding. There can be hundreds of reasons behind it, but “slap or anger” is not the answer. I should have placed myself on his place. Feeling guilty!

If a multiplication sum given to us with figures like four multiplied by seven. In seconds our response will be twenty eight. How did we conclude? What were the processes? We all take it for granted. But this experience gave me a chance to see that process happening on paper. I gave worksheets of 4’s table to the students of 3rd class. They know it by heart, but no idea of its usage. So to give them an idea, question was framed with a daily life example-“How many feet do a camel have?” Answer by kids, “Four”. “So what will be the number of eight camels’ feet?” The kids drew four lines and then made a circle around it. By the same method they made eight circles. When this is done, they counted the number of lines and answered Thirty two.
Let’s run together
As I had told students of 2nd & 3rd standard for mathematics class. In 2nd standard, the number was small still girls rarely talked to boys, vice versa. They were very hesitant. To break this communication gap, I decided to divide them in three groups (that day only six kids were present-each group had one girl and one boy. They were told to hold each other’s hand and run together. Tried this three-four times. The dam of hesitation got blasted. Reflecting on the exercise helped them to know more about each other. Now they swim together and sink together. One has to see the unity of the class. There are petty differences but they are proud to be together. Whenever student of other class tried to infiltrate, they are together to send him/her back.

“Apna Desh Mahan Hai…”
On second or third day of my experience in Jaitpura, while going to school, I was reading Arundhati Roy’s essay. I was emotionally high. At one point, my mind just stated “I don’t sing India any more”. With the same emotion, I entered the class. Everyone was in a mood to sing a rhyme. I had none with me, so requested them to choose any one from their book. They chose “Apna Desh Mahan Hai…” (Our country is great). I was taken aback. Frustrated with faulty –demonized democracy, I saw a light of hope in their eyes to make the country great.

For more of Kabir's experiences, see:
If I were my own teacher: confidence, colour and voices
Steep Climb 

Tourist Guide 

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